As the college football world inches closer to Armageddon — as it does every year — the arguments intensify regarding the Bowl Championship Series.
Schools and leagues are jockeying for position to claim a spot in the BCS’ top two and among the BCS’ consolation bowls. Let’s simplify some of the discussion rationally.
If the SEC champion wins out, it will play for the national title. The rankings will make it so. Likewise if Texas stays above the rest of the Mid-Size 12 en route to a perfect season, it will play for the national title.
If it remains unbeaten, Iowa deserves first bids should the others fall apart. Iowa has played by far the toughest schedule, especially on the road. Yes, it barely clipped Arkansas State and Northern Iowa, but it also beat Wisconsin, Penn State and Arizona by double-digits. Cincinnati should be next, followed by Oregon.
As for the non-BCS conferences, this is partly your undoing. The Western Athletic Conference had 16 teams in 1996 before eight schools (now nine) broke away to form the Mountain West Conference in 1999. Had the WAC stayed fat and happy 10 years ago, there would be four quality top 20 teams in TCU, Boise State, BYU and Utah. The league could have held a championship game in Denver and there’s no sane reason to keep the league out of a BCS automatic berth and making a legitimate argument for title game consideration.
If the WAC and MWC were under one roof again, a championship game pitting TCU vs. Boise State would give the winner a weighty argument for the BCS title game. Instead, the separate leagues hold each other back in perception. If the leagues wanted to compromise and ensure an annual spot in the BCS, they should petition the NCAA to allow a championship game between the conferences with the winner considered an automatic qualifier. But if that doesn’t happen, or if the Mountain West doesn’t siphon off the best WAC schools, count on this argument continuing through infinity.
Here’s a look at the latest bowl projections. Remember the bowls don’t play fair. They need to sell tickets, and they need to attract eyeballs to their game.
- BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Texas — There’s no stopping the Longhorns this year in the Mid-Size 12. Alabama’s defense should hold off Florida in the SEC Championship Game to secure the national title berth.
- Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. TCU — The Yellowjackets are automatic qualifiers. The Orange Bowl picks first after the bowls losing teams to the national title game and tabs TCU over Cincinnati after hosting the Bearcats last year.
- Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. USC — After losing Texas, the Fiesta Bowl picks Notre Dame to replace the Big 12 team, presuming the Fighting Irish have at least 9 wins and are ranked in the BCS’ top 14 at season’s end. The bowl will pick USC over Boise State and Penn State because of proximity and potential television ratings, even with a rematch.
- Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Cincinnati — I really wonder if the Bearcats can go through the Big East season unscathed with West Virginia and Pittsburgh still on the schedule. It’s not a bad consolation prize for Florida.
- Rose Bowl: Iowa vs. Oregon — The only drama seems to be whether Iowa will finish unbeaten and give the BCS another bloody nose. Oregon took all the drama from Pac-10 race and stepped on it like a bug.
BIG TEN BOWLS
- Capital One Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State — This is one of those match-ups that BCS bowls love to have and avoid the Cincinnatis, TCUs and Boise States. Too bad for them.
- Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Ohio State — You can make a case that the SEC’s top three are among the nation’s 10 best. Then the league gets very ordinary. Ohio State could take out some major bowl aggression in this game.
- Champs Bowl: Clemson vs. Minnesota — Wisconsin normally would go here, but a late trip to Hawaii coupled with five straight seasons of Florida bowl games leads the Orlando game to pick the Golden Gophers.
- Alamo Bowl: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin — There will be a whole lot of red in that stadium.
- Insight Bowl: Missouri vs. Michigan State — This would have made a nice match-up last year in the Alamo Bowl, too.
- Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl: Michigan vs. Central Michigan — Downtown Detroit gets its best game yet.
- EagleBank Bowl: Marshall vs. Northwestern — The Wildcats get in as a replacement and play a relatively local team.
BIG 12/MIDDLE TIER BOWLS
- Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Auburn — Virtually any team from the SEC can play in this one. Oklahoma’s national title hopes were cracked the last time it played in Cowboys Stadium.
- Holiday Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. California — The bowl’s shootout streak continues.
- Sun Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Arizona — Schools meet about halfway — like 7 hours away — for this match-up.
- Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Navy — You seriously don’t think a bowl in Houston will take a team from out of state, do you?
- Independence Bowl: Kansas vs. South Carolina — A disappointing end for both teams.
- New Mexico Bowl: Kansas State vs. Nevada — Bill Snyder’s troops are added as a replacement.
- Gator Bowl: Miami vs. West Virginia — This one rekindles the old days of when both were independents.
- Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. Virginia Tech — Nice landing spot for the Hokies after a semi-disappointing season. Georgia will luck out and play here.
- Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Houston — An old Southwest Conference match-up with two tremendous quarterbacks.
- Music City Bowl: Ole Miss vs. North Carolina — Ole Miss is the season’s most disappointing team. Few teams are as up-and-down as the Tar Heels.
- Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. BYU — BYU’s history in San Diego makes it a logical choice against the team left out from the BCS sweepstakes.
- Emerald Bowl: Stanford vs. Boston College — The ACC sends one of its strongest — yet, least-traveling — teams west to play a virtual home game for Stanford.
- Meineke Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest — It wouldn’t surprise me if Pittsburgh ends up knocking out Cincinnati for the Big East crown. I’m amazed every year that Jim Grobe can get his team to compete in the ACC.
- Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State vs. Utah — This is one of the best low-profile match-ups this season.
- Papajohns Bowl: Kentucky vs. Connecticut — If the basketball teams played as an encore, more people would pay attention.
- Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. SMU
- Humanitarian Bowl: Wyoming vs. Idaho
- Hawaii Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Fresno State
- New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. East Carolina
- St. Petersburg Bowl: South Florida vs. Central Florida
- GMAC Bowl: Florida State vs. Ohio
- International Bowl: Rutgers vs. Temple